Saturday has always been my favorite (shhh, don’t tell the other days!). When I worked in corporate, I loved Saturday because it meant I didn’t have to spend 8+ hours stuck in my office. Instead, I was free to spend the day binge-watching HGTV, painting my nails, and spending time outside if the weather was nice. I’d move at the speed of an injured tortoise from one self-centered indulgence to the next with nary a care in the world.
But then kids came along, and Saturday became less relaxing. Saturday, when you’re a mom, means episodes of Paw Patrol on repeat, cleaning the kitchen (again), and fetching no fewer than a dozen snacks. But Saturday was still cool because at least I didn’t have to make myself presentable and schlep my mom-bod to work.
Now that I work for myself as a life coach, podcast host, and blogger (and f*cking love my work, I might add), Saturday has lost a bit of its luster. Why? Well, the house is in chaos. Everyone is screaming. And all creativity, having been scared off by exhaustion and sticky toddler hands, has left my body.
Despite all this, Saturday is still pretty sweet because I get to sleep in. A couple of years ago, my husband and I made a deal: he’d let me sleep in every Saturday morning, and I, in turn, would get up with the kids on Sundays. And let me tell you: after six days in a row of waking with the sun to the sensation of toddler-sized knees burrowed into my back, this small respite is absolute gold.
The power of a better night’s sleep
Intuitively, I’ve always known that sleep was important. If I had any doubt about this, enduring each of my kid’s newborn days—and the choppy, haphazard sleep schedule that came along with them—solidified my belief that getting quality rest was paramount.
Predictably, science agrees.
Experts at the National Sleep Foundation say we need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel our best. We’re all wired a bit differently, so your ideal hours of shut-eye might be different from mine, but the amount you need probably falls within that range.
Sleep has a profound effect on our physical and emotional well-being. Getting a good night’s rest keeps our immune system functioning, supports learning and memory, and helps boost our mood. The problem is, many of us aren’t getting enough.
When our sleep dips too far below the recommended amount, we really start to suffer. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania experimented to see just how detrimental poor sleep is. They found that people who sleep only 4.5-5 hours per night are at high risk of feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted than usual. If we have a bad night here and there, it’s unlikely that lack of sleep will have a significant impact on our mood. But if it starts to become a habit (or if it’s a habit already), that’s when trouble begins.
Releasing limiting beliefs, squashing negative self-talk, and correcting thought errors is hard work no matter which way you look at it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a filthy liar.
This is one of the main reasons my coaching program includes a deep dive into my client’s schedules, habits, and routines—including how much time they spend snoozing. And it’s not so I can wag my finger at them disapprovingly when we discover they’re logging six hours on a good night. Rather, it’s because I know that if their brain is fatigued, having been deprived of the rest it needs to be fully functional, the work we do will be an uphill climb. Releasing limiting beliefs, squashing negative self-talk, and achieving goals is hard work, no matter which way you look at it, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a filthy liar. Add mental exhaustion to that, and you end up in a pretty hairy situation.
How to get more, better quality sleep
I know most of us are trying to get the rest we know we need, but it’s hard to do. We can’t just click our heels together three times and overcome the hurdles standing between us and our warm, cozy beds. But my hope is that at least one of these five secrets to better sleep that I’m about to share will bring you closer to your sleep goals.
1. Try to go to bed at the same time each night. I know, I know: when you finally get the kids to bed, all you want to do is curl up on the couch with popcorn and the latest episode of This is Us. But if this means you go to bed at 9 pm one day at 11 pm the next, your brain will not be pleased. Your brain likes consistency. When your brain gets what it wants, it rewards you by enhancing your focus and elevating your unique brand of sarcastic wit. When it doesn’t get what it wants, it behaves like a whiny toddler who doesn’t want to put on shoes.
I have one of those. He’s cute, but man… exhausting!
A great way to set yourself up for success is to use an alarm or notification on your phone that alerts you when it’s time to start your bedtime ritual. Notice I did not suggest that you set the alarm for the time you want to be in bed. Instead, I’m recommending that you set a notification for about 30-60 minutes before that time so that you can wind down in a slow, relaxed fashion. You might write in a journal, do some light stretches, read a book, or do anything else that brings you peace and calm.
Plus, when you go to sleep and wake up on a predictable schedule, your body’s internal clock starts to learn the pattern. Before long, many people even start to wake up naturally at the right time without needing an alarm clock. Imagine that!
2. About one hour before you want to be asleep, dim the lights wherever you are and avoid screens. Studies show that blue light from TVs, smartphones, and tablets can suppress melatonin, which is a hormone that influences your circadian rhythm.
If you can’t eliminate screens from your environment, you still have some options. For example, you can ask your optometrist about blue light-filtering eyeglasses. You can buy these online for under $20.
Alternatively, you can change some settings on your phone, tablet, or computer to turn down the amount of blue light it emits. Apple and Android have built-in night mode functions, or you can download third-party apps that will do this for you.
Side note: PC Mag did a great piece on this (you can get to it by clicking here).
3. Use sleep-friendly essential oils in your bedroom. Because essential oils are powerful, always check with your doctor before using them. If you get the okay, popular oils for sleep include chamomile, jasmine, and lavender. I buy mine from doTerra, but any high-quality brand will do. You can use them in an aroma diffuser or spray diluted oils on your pillows and bedsheets. To make a diluted essential oil spray, fill a glass spray bottle with purified or distilled water. Then, add a few drops of your chosen oil. Shake it well (oil and water don’t mix, remember?) and do a test spray. You can add more oil until you’re happy with the strength of the aroma.
4. Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and some teas 5-8 hours before going to sleep since caffeine can keep you awake. When plain old water gets boring but I don’t want to resort to pop or coffee, I pour a tall glass of lemonade or sparkling water.
5. Pay attention to the temperature in your bedroom. The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping the room at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is significantly higher or lower, it can impact your ability to fall asleep and hamper the quality of your rest.
Sweaty sheets, anyone? No thank you.
If you have any other ideas for getting better sleep, leave them in the comments. You never know who might be looking for something new to try!